John Summers


The Portrayal of the Free Wales Army in the British and Welsh Press

by Nicholas K Alderton

In 2006 Nicholas Alderton was studying history at Bangor University, and interviewed John about his knowledge of the Free Wales Army in the late-1960s. Here is a brief extract from his dissertation:

The Sunday Telegraph magazine, in September 1968, ran an article by the journalist John Summers. The article is well balanced and does not show the FWA members just as fanatics, but more as a group that is airing legitimate grievances towards the English state. For instance the language issue was stated as a cause that galvanised the group; in particular it makes reference to an incident that took place in a factory that had banned the speaking of Welsh; it was only after a small riot took place that the authorities ordered the reversal of the factory’s policy. Further into the piece the FWA deny they intend any harm to Prince Charles and cite a WLS (Welsh Language Society) demonstration against Charles, when a WLS member jibed the Prince by saying “You are not very bright.” It is touched upon because the FWA allegedly threatened the WLS member for the insult. However, the FWA do say that they have some plans for the investiture.

Another claim is made within the article to the FWA belonging to the “International Celtic Army,” whose membership includes the IRA and groups such as the Quebec Liberation Front. The article also makes reference to the MAC (Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru) organisation; hinting that the FWA is associated with the group, it states that the FWA started out as part of MAC. The article also states that there had been a lack of cooperation from the public with regards to the continued police investigation into the FWA activities, lending support to the idea that the group did hold a certain amount of public support.

In a recent correspondence John Summers elaborated further on his experience with the FWA by saying that, “It would be quite wrong to say that the majority of people in Wales ridiculed them … What was said at the time about the Welsh nationalist groups was that … it was better to claim that the public regarded them as a ‘futile’ joke. In fact the public very much identified with their stated aims, e.g. the Welsh Language.”